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See You In the Streets

See You in the Streets

Art, Action + Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Book (2016)
Winner of a 2017 American Book Award

See You in the Streets offers an exuberant perspective on an art practice that bridges art and technology, memory and wonder to create compassionate works as an incitement to individual and social transformation.

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Help spread the word!
– Review the book on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.
– Ask your local library to purchase a copy
Invite me to your community to give a book talk

Perhaps we are made for these times at the 2017 American Book Awards from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Please also see Chalk, Voices of 9.11, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition.

Sergel’s book is a case study in how to do art activism well. – Reviews in History 

See You In the Streets offers public historians much fodder for thought and is also a good read. The Public Historian 

Ninety years before 9/11, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire also destroyed a building in lower Manhattan, also led people to leap to their deaths rather than burn alive, but the culprit in the earlier case wasn’t terrorists, unless you bestow that name on ruthless employers. Ruth Sergel’s moving, riveting, and important book reminds us that ‘in 2011, the year of the Triangle Fire Centennial, 17 people in the United States were killed by terrorism, while 4,609 died in workplace accidents.’ Rebecca Solnit, author, The Faraway Nearby

Ruth Sergel has been ahead of the curve for years and this book proves it. We should listen very carefully to what she wants to do next! —Frida Kahlo, founding member, Guerrilla Girls

In this passionate book, Sergel, a remarkable activist and artist, writes eloquently about one of history’s worst workplace tragedies—the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. Sergel also explains how art can be used ingeniously to keep memories of that tragedy alive so that we in the twenty-first century never forget the hugely important lessons to be drawn from it. Steven Greenhouse, author, The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker


“The 2011 centennial commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire led by Ruth Sergel was among the most successful unions of art and social justice I have yet to witness in my thirty-year career. Beautifully written, See You in the Streets offers new generations of social and cultural activist insight into this magnificent model program and ways to utilize the ‘unexpected beauty’ in the world toward social justice.” Steve Zeitlin, Founding Director, City Lore

Table of Contents
Welcome • The Fire • Chalk • Craft • Voices of 9.11 • Start Your Engines • Solidarity • Radical Tolerance • Fair Exchange • Leadership • Difficult Memory • Memorial • Sustainability • Acts of Return • The Centennial (Utopia) • See You in the Streets


The book includes essays by:
Suzanne Pred Bass, Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, Cheryl Beredo, May Y. Chen, Esther Cohen, Richard A. Greenwald, Sherry Kane, Annie Lanzillotto, LuLu LoLo, Annelise Orleck, Kaushik Panchal, Emma Rosenthal, Elissa Sampson, Andi Sosin + Joel Sosinsky, Ellen Wiley Todd, Mary Anne Trasciatti and Sheryl Woodruff. The introduction is by Anne Valk.

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, Roy Campolongo, Nathan Farb, Diane Fortuna, Alfonso Guerriero + the Young Historians of PS 126, Heidi Gutman, Marjorie Ingall, Scott Jackson + his class at the Brooklyn International High School, Phyllis Kestenbaum, Serphin + Vincent Maltese, Gary Meister, RJ Mikelson (for Workers United), Shelley Jacobs Mintz, Ileana Montalvo and Vivian Sorenson.


See You in the Streets is a part of the Humanities and Public Life series at the University of Iowa Press edited by Anne Valk and Teresa Mangum. Catherine Cocks: acquisitions editor, Susan Hill Newton: managing editor, Karen Copp: production manager, Rebecca Marsh: copy editor, Laurie Pendergast: index editor, Allison Means: Publicity, James McCoy: director.


Heartfelt thanks to all who made this book possible.

There are moments in our lives when we are most fully ourselves. Its an electrifying feeling. Constraints that felt immutable, we step right out of them. Fully present in our bodies, its loose and sexy. We can spin on a dime to face any adversity and blaze right through. It is not that we are fearless, it is often terrifying, but the motion that is propelling us forward has so much joy, so much life force, that our demons become tiny in comparison. With crackling energy, we find ourselves whole.

My work is directed at what makes those moments possible for myself and for others. The crooked path from blown out despair, when we lack the energy to tackle even the simplest tasks, to gathering our resources to march forward once again. There is a delicate peeling apart of the layers of personal struggle from political despair. To emancipate ourselves we have to exorcise internalized self-censorship and seek communion with others to find brash hope. My work across film, public works and new media, seeks out what makes individual and social transformation possible.

Download the introduction to See You In the Streets.



Public Intervention (2004 – present)

On 25 March 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire  took the lives of 146 workers, mostly young immigrant women and girls, and galvanized a movement for social and economic justice.

Each year since 2004, on the anniversary of the infamous blaze, volunteers fan out across the city to inscribe in chalk the names and ages of the Triangle dead in front of their former homes. Chalk is a kind of land art for the Anthropocene. Using the local elements – asphalt, chalk, humans – found in the cityscape. Footsteps and rain will erase the memorial but in a demonstration of the power of collective action, the following year others will return, insisting on the memory of these lost young workers.


If you would like to participate in Chalk 2024 let me know!

Download the Chalk 2021 flier here.


…trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. -Paulo Freire

Please also see See You in the Streets, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, Gaza Ghetto.

Photo Credits: Roy Campolongo, Cary Conover, Marjorie Ingall, LES Girls Club, Rob Linné, Matt Levy, Ileana Montalvo, Joel Spivak, Kevin Walter
Triangle Family Members: Suzanne Pred Bass, Diane Fortuna, Maltese Family, Lansner Family
Music: Di Fire Korbunes [excerpt] arranged + recorded byEve Sicular + Metropolitan Klezmer, 2011. Published by Louis Gilrod & David Meyerowitz, 1911.
Thank you: Workers United, Kheel Center

To view the map full screen, please click here
To view the database table of the Triangle dead including their addresses and other information, please click here.

The list of names was originally based on the work of David von Drehle and updated based on information from Triangle family members, the Kheel Center and ongoing research by John Leonard and Michael Hirsch. If you have info or suggestions – let me know! Many thanks to the technical genius + kind heart of John Schimmel.

History of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, created for the 2021 union commemoration.

Penn South Archive Project

Penn South Archive Project

Public Intervention (2023)

Who said an immigrant garment worker’s union could erect an affordable housing project smack dab in the middle of Manhattan??

No one.

But they did it anyway!

Penn South was built by the labor movement to provide affordable housing for working people within walking distance of their jobs. It opened in 1962 and has remained a beacon of the power of collective action to this day. For the past year I have been working with the good folks of Penn South to create an archive and oral history of this bold social experiment.

The collection and a short film will be online and available to the public in Spring 2023.


Please also see See You in the Streets, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, Voices of 9.11.

Immerwährende Verwandlung

lmmerwährende Verwandlung (Perpetual Metamorphosis)

Interactive Installation (2019)

An interactive cabinet of wonders created from the collections of the University of Hamburg.

See…Panofsky’s Mirror
A portrait of the renowned art historian, forced to leave
the university in 1933, shares his views on art and time

Touch… Objects of Knowledge
Wax, fur, newspaper, amber. Touch each object to trigger a story from the university’s past

Listen… Lunascope
Peering through the Lunascope one can view the history of women at the university.

Move… You Are Everything You Need
Standing before a projection, the viewer’s physical
movement triggers animated scenes and embodies objects from the university’s collections.


Commissioned and on permanent exhibition at the University of Hamburg.

Please also see Alice in Berlin, Magic Box

Alles. Jedes Bild, jede Stimme und jede Musik von der Universität Hamburg.
Kuratorinnen Antonia Humm, Kirsten Weining
Universität: Antje Zare

Vielen Dank:
Jennifer Ahrens
Robi Banerjee
Daniel Bein
Dörte Bischof
Johanna Blautzik
Andreas Boether
Sarah Casura
Thure Dalsgaard
Henrik Eßler
Frank Fox
Wiebke Främcke
Jörg Hammel
Dieter Haneit
Lara Hemken
Katharina Jessen
Ulrich Kotthoff
Sigrid Körner
Gabriele Kranz
Eckart Krause
Sebastian Lindhorst
Andreas Löhrer
Anke Napp
Antje Newig
Ranier Nicolaysen
Fanny Opdenhoff
Phillip Osten
Angelika Paschke-Kratzin
Thomas Posth
René Rackow
Stefan Rust
Marko Saggau
Carsten Schirarend
Jochen Schlüter
Matthias Schultz
Fabian Schwarz
Klaus von Schwartzenberg
Anke Vollersen
Jan Wollenberg
Leon Ziemer

Praktikantinnen Maxime von Camier, Louisa Jahn, Nina Zare

I met so many people at Uni Hamburg – if your name should be on this list – let me know!

Panofskys Spiegel Stimme
Ranier Nicolaysen

Luna Stimme
Lara Hemken
Antonia Humm
Katharina Jessen
Antje Newig
Angelika Paschke-Kratzin
Kerstin Weining

Du Bist Alles Was Du Brauchst Stimme
Eckart Krause

Orchester der Universität Hamburg
unter der Leitung von Thomas Posth
Winterkonzertes vom Februar 2019
Gustav Mahler 2. Sinfonie

Chor der Universität Hamburg
unter der Leitung von Thomas Posth
“Sphären” vom Sommer 2018 in der Kirche St. Johannis Harvestehude

Skyliner Big Band
Unter der Leitung von Andreas Böther
One O’Clock Jump

Frank Fox (Mikrobiologie)
Karin Plessing + Reinhard Scheiblich (Moulagen, Medizinhistorisches Museum Hamburg)

Assistenten der Künstlerin
Bronwyn Donohue
Olga Ortiz

Jonas Maria Droste

Besonderen Dank an
Kuratorinnen Antonia Humm, Kirsten Weining
Universität Hamburg Antje Zare, Lara Hemken, René Rackow
Die guten Leute von Gewerk
Benutzertester Aglaia Koslowski, Michael Keuntje, Martina Mogl, Birte Stoltenberg, Helmut Tausendteufel
Jude Calder, Nathan Farb, Pamela Griffiths + the Sitting Room Drawers
Vielen Dank für die Inspiration Ranier Nicolaysen + Eckart Krause



All the pieces in Immerwährende Verwandlung were built with Isadora and Arduino.

You can download the code here.



Pandemic Postcard

Pandemic Postcard

Social Intervention (2020)


How to digest the news in a pandemic?
Cut it up + revise
(more postcards coming soon!)


Make your own!
– Buy pre-stamped postcards – #SaveUSPS
– Cut out words + pictures from your local newspaper
– Use artist medium to decoupage newsprint to the postcard.
– After postcard dries, leave it under a heavy book to flatten
– Listen to the postcard to know who it should go to
– Address + drop it in the mail
– Repeat


Please also see Gaza Ghetto, #MAGA, Forbidden Words

Gaza Ghetto

Gaza Ghetto

Public Intervention (2014 – present)

There should be a word for it.

Earlier this summer I was sitting in a Berlin cafe with two other Jewish women. We each had a story about the moment when it happened. For me it was taking a language class and meeting a young man from Gaza. For the woman from Frankfurt it was while living in Jerusalem. A gear click-turns and the hazy fantasy of Israel is gone, replaced by something harsh and clear and true.

Am I living in alignment with my own values?

Gaza Ghetto was originally created in 2014 as a response to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. I wrote the name and age of each person killed in Gaza on my arm, photographed it and posted the image to social media. Israel killed roughly 2200 people that summer, most of them civilians, 548 were children. Since that time hundreds more Palestinians have been killed. The Gaza Ghetto project continues.

Please stay informed. Resources include: Jewish Voice for Peace, +972 Magazine, B’Tselem, Mondoweiss


Please also see Chalk, Voices of 9.11.

Forbidden Words

Forbidden Words: USA 2017

Public Intervention (2017)

The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
Washington Post 15 December 2017


Thank you Esme Farb, Tyler Kim, Clara Palavesin, Saudia Young. Al. Bruce + Ethel dearly missed.

Please also see #maga, Gaza Ghetto



Public Intervention (2016 – 2017)

52 cards (a full deck) created between the 2016 Electoral College vote and the 2017 Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.


Please also see Bruce, Forbidden Words, Gaza Ghetto, Chalk.

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Alice in Berlin

Alice in Berlin

Interactive Installation (2012)
It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards – Lewis Carroll

Alice in Berlin slyly evokes our fantasy of childhood innocence to lead the audience on a hallucinatory trip into today’s global chaos. Each scene of the interactive installation builds on the audiences physical participation to question our place in history and individual accountability.

Initially the audience is passive for a short animation as Alice leaps off the page. Alice lures us into a topsy-turvy world where 19th century images collide with iconic moments of the 20th century. In front of the looking glass, fantasy and reality merge as Alice fluidly mirrors the viewer’s every move. A surreal landscape leads to a contemporary world of global change. Alice disappears and we land firmly back in contemporary Berlin

Please also see Al, Turing Machine, Ethel.

Program/animation by Ruth Sergel.

White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane on Surrealistic Pillow.

Thanks to Peter von Salis, Kay Kastner + Multimedier Schlachthof, Mark Coniglio, Antonia Humm, Victoria Rothe and Helmut Tausentaufeld.

Exhibition: Arcilesi Homberg Fine Art (NYC), Out of Line Gallery (Chicago), Multimedier Schlachthof/ 48 Stunden Neukölln (Berlin).



Interactive Documentary (2012)   Commissioned by theater director Bulat Atabayev of Kazakhstan, Zhanaozen was created for the one year anniversary of the massacre of striking miners. The interactive documentary reacts to the viewers’ physical movement to upend state media, revealing evidence of the slaughter and the protests that followed. The exhibition at Faltin-Villa (Berlin) included the paintings of Raushan Tolganbayeva   Learn more at: Campaign Kazakhstan. Special thanks to Friederike Felbeck

Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

Public Intervention (2008 – present)

In anticipation of the 2011 Centennial of the infamous fire, Ruth founded the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition. The focus of the Coalition was on a legacy of the fire which is no less true today then in 1911 – that your choice as an individual to be active or passive in civic engagement has a direct impact on our broader community. Over a three year period, the Coalition grew into a national network of over 250 partners who created hundreds of educational, activist and creative actions across the country. You can see a full listing of Centennial events here.

The Coalition continues today to spearhead the movement to create a permanent memorial to the Triangle workers.


If you’re in a coalition and you’re comfortable, you know it’s not a broad enough coalition. – Bernice Johnson Reagon

Participating Organizations A Besere Velt (A Better World): Yiddish Community Chorus of Boston Workmen’s Circle • Adelphi University • Alta Gracia Apparel • American Experience, PBS • American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark • American Labor Studies Center • American Society of Safety Engineers • Anabella Lenzu/DanceDrama • Ann Maria Bell • Annie Lanzillotto • Archbishop Carney High School • BAAD! • Babcock Galleries • Barre Historical Society • The Bay Ridge Historical Society • Timothy Beaty • Berkeley City College’s Arts and Cultural Studies Department • Boston College Department of Theatre • Bread and Roses Centennial Committee • Bread and Roses Heritage Committee • Brooklyn College Alumni Assoc. Mid-New Jersey Chapter • Brooklyn Historical Society • Brooklyn Women’s Chorus • Brotherhood Synagogue • Jane Bugnand • Caraid O’Brien • Carolina Center for Jewish Studies • Center for the Study of Labor and Democracy • City Reliquary Museum & Civic Organization • Coalition For A New Village Hospital • College of Staten Island/CUNY • Dean’s Circle, NYU • Def Dance Jam Workshop • Department of Romance Languages/Hunter College, CUNY • Diane Lutz • Dianich Gallery • Downtown Art • Drama Bookshop • Duane Cook • East Harlem Preservation Inc. • Education & Labor Collaborative • Elaine Ocasio • Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts • Experimental Geography in Practice • First Class PR Agency — Hofstra University • The Forward • Frances Perkins Center • Friends of the Bowie Library • Gettysburg Stage • Global Education Motivators • Gotham Center for NYC History • Greater Astoria Historical Society • Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition • Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation • Grey Art Gallery, New York University • Hebrew Free Burial Association • Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation • Cynthia Impala • Injured Workers Unite Coalition of ConnectiCOSH • Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights • International Labor Rights Forum • IS 190 – Class 002 • Italian American Writers’ Association • J. Taylor Finley Middle School • JCC CenterStage • Jewish Community Action • Jewish Labor Committee • Jewish Women’s Archive • Jews for Racial and Economic Justice • Joyce Gold History Tours of New York • Juan Morel Campos Secondary School • Judea Reform Congregation • Kavana Cooperative • L Cunniff Productions • La Fuente: NYCPP and LICPP • Labor and Working Class History Association • LaborArts • LaborFest • Lallan Schoenstein and Gary E. Wilson • Latinas Against FDNY Cuts • Levy’s Unique New York • Looking for Lilith Theatre Company • Los Angeles LaborFest • Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy • Lower East Side Tenement Museum • LuLu LoLo Productions • Lyric Stage • Manhattan Choral Ensemble • Memory Melody • Merchant’s House Museum • Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America • Metropolitan Klezmer • Meyer London Family • Microrevolt • Mount Sinai-IJ Selikoff Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine • Murphy Institute for Worker Education/CUNY • Museum at Eldridge Street • Museum of the City of New York • My New York City Tours • Nassau Reading Council • National Labor Committee • New York City Fire Museum • New York Labor History Association • New York Society for Ethical Culture • New York State Department of Labor • Roger Newell • NewFilmmakers • Next Generation Bay Area • Nina Haft & Company • NOW – NYC • NYS Communist Party • NYS Immigrant Action Fund • Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Eastern NY • Open Ink Productions • Parachute Project • Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee • Pipe Nozzle • PS 65 Bronx, NY • Remember the Women Institute • Rory Lancman, NYS Assembly • Safety Priority • San Francisco Mime Troupe • Sheep’s Nose Farm • Sisters in the Building Trades • Society of Fire Protection Engineers – Metropolitan NY Chapter • Brian Spaulding • St. John the Divine • St. John’s University – Staten Island Campus • Stanton Street Shul • Staten Island Democratic Association • Staten Island OutLOUD • Street Pictures • Street Vendor Project • SUNY Albany School of Public Health, CPHCE • Suzanne Beahrs and Dancers • SweatFree Communities • Tellers2 • The Actors Company Theatre • Theater for the New City • Theorizing Women’s Activism • Ti Piace Italian American Presentations, Inc • Todd Mountain Theater Project • Tottenville High School Women’s Chorus • Triangle Concert • Triangle Jazz Project • Triangle Letter Project • Triangle Project LLC • Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial • United National Anti-War Committee • United University Professions/Stony Brook • University of Iowa – The Labor Center • University of Iowa Theater Department • Annie Schneiderman Valliere • W4 New Music Collective • West End Synagogue • Widener Triangle Centennial Committee • Women and Gender Studies Program at Hunter College (CUNY) • Women’s City Club of New York • Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring Michigan • Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring • Worksafe • Yeshiva University Museum Sponsors Albert Catalano • American Social History Project • Andrea Coyle – Lower East Side History Project • Andrew + Miriam Sanello • Annmarie Brown • Barbara Burrell • Barbara Campbell • The Bay Ridge Historical Society • Beatrice Vargas, in memoriam • Bill Russo • Blair Brewster • Bricklayers & Allied Craftsworkers Local 1 NY • Brindle-Khym Family • Burt Swersey • Carol & Harold Sader • Charles Levenstein • Chelsea Reform Democratic Club • Ching Wong + Mary Yee • CSEA • Cynthia Drew • David Kook • David Prouty • David von Drehle • Diane Fortuna • Dianna Maeurer • Donna Nevel • Edgar & Gladys Romney • Elaine Ferranti-Kenndy • Ellen Wiley Todd • Ethix Ventures Inc. • Family of Rose Schneiderman • Fashion Institute of Technology • Gennaro Pecchia • Hal Tepfer • Hanna Griff-Sleven • H. Theodore Cohen • Harry Robbins • Henry Street Settlement • Heriberto Vargas • Italian American Writers’ Association • Janet E. Garvey • Jo Ann E Argersinger • Jo Hamilton • John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, CUNY • Joyce Mendelsohn • Judith Polson • Judith Stonehill • Kate Bostock Shefferman + Jesse Shefferman • Kevin Foley • Labor – Religion Coalition of New York State • Labor and Working Class History Association • League of Women Voters of the City of New York • Lee Feuerstein • Lynn Steuer • Maria Elena Capaldo • Maria La Russo • Marian Gray • Marise Hausner • Martha Fleischman • Mary Hirsch • May Ying Chen • Nancy Lorence • Nassau Reading Council • Natalie Sosinsky • National Consumers League • New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) • New York State United Teachers • Norman Reisman • NY/NJ Regional Board Workers United/SEIU • Paradiso-Parthas Press / Feile-Festa • Rekindling Reform • Robert Forrant • Rosemarie Ottomanelli • Rosina Cirrito Descendents • Roy Campolongo • Ryan Heffernan • Save Chelsea • Social Democrats, USA • Socialist Party of New York City • Steven & Ellen Eshchuk • Susan Cowell • Susan Lee • Suzanne Wasserman • Tom Lansner • Turning Point Acupuncture • UNITE HERE • United College Employees of FIT • United Jewish People’s Order • Veemin + Kitty Yee • Walter McClatchey, Jr • Washington Square Hotel • Washington State Coalition of Labor Women • Women’s eNews Change Agents 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund • American Society of Safety Engineers • Rachel Bernstein • Linda Bertoldi & W.A. Bogart • Blowback Productions • Louis Blumengarten • Change to Win • Esther Cohen • Cooper Union • HBO • Evelyn Jones Rich • Judson Memorial Church • Sherry Kane • Kheel Center – ILR School, Cornell • Labor Arts • Daniel Levinson Wilk • Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America • New York City Central Labor Council • New York Council for the Humanities • New York University Community Fund • Sidney Hillman Foundation • Suzanne Pred Bass • Schwarz Family Foundation • Adrienne Andi Sosin + Joel Sosinsky • Sparkplug Foundation • Sheryl Woodruff • Workers United, NY NJ Joint Board • United College Employees of FIT

Alchemy of Light

Alchemy of Light

Performance (2010) Alchemy of Light melds 19th century illusionism with current interactive technologies to depict the life of the legendary magician Torrini as a parable from a time when our lives first became mediated by machines. In the 19th century, Torrini, always at the forefront of technological development, was renowned for his astonishing illusions. One evening during a performance he accidentally killed his own child. He spent the rest of his life vainly struggling to conjure back his lost family. Alchemy of Light guides the audience through a series of 7 interactive installations which use live and virtual encounters with the Torrini family to explore the seduction and limits of technology.

Please also see: Magic Box, Boo!

Video projected from ‘magic lantern’ during performance of Alchemy of Light.

Alchemy of Light was developed through residencies at Here Arts Center (NYC), Digital Performance Institute and Squeaky Wheel. Work-in-progress showings were held at Here’s Culturemart and as part of LMCC’s Swing Space program. Funding from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Schindler Stiftung.

$700 Billion for the Arts – Because We’re Too Big to Fail!

$700 Billion for the Arts… Because We’re too Big to Fail!!

Public Intervention (2010)

Who does more for America –
banks or the arts??

Tired of writing those grants? Juggling day jobs? There is another option!

Join the movement to make the case –
We’re too big to fail!

1. Draw ARTIST on a piece of paper
2. Take a picture of yourself
3. Post the picture on our Facebook Page


$700,000,000,000 Billion for the Arts was launched as part of an NEA funded residency at the wonderful Squeaky Wheel.


Please also see Chalk, Gaza Ghetto

Thank you Dorothea, Jax, Mark, Ryan, Tammy, Brian, Jan, Brenda, Ruth & the wonderful arts community of Buffalo.

Magic Box

Magic Box

Interactive Installation (2009)

Magic Box melds 19th century illusionism with current technologies in the guise of a pre-cinema device. The box hangs from the ceiling with brass viewing tubes on either end. Peering inside the device, each participant can see through to the other’s eyes, while watching a film that is completely invisible to the other viewer. Levers on the side of the box allow the participants to select which of four films they will view. If both move to the end position, their hands will touch.

Each film inside Magic Box depicts a different aspect of 19th century hope and confusion that emerging technologies might at last allow us to breach the life-death divide. For the participant,

Magic Box creates an intimate interaction with a stranger to probe the dissonance between real and virtual human connection.

Please also see Alchemy of Light, Alice in Berlin.

Magic Box has exhibited at the at the Shift Festival (Basel), 3LD Art & Technology Center, ITP Spring Gallery and the Hudson Guild Gallery (NYC).

Created (program/camera/edit) by Ruth Sergel

Performers: Luigi Coppola, Johanna Levy, Clara Palavesin
Music: Erik Friedlander, Michael Montes
Carpentry: Paul DiPietro

Magic Box is supported by a grant from the Experimental Television Center’s Finishing Funds program which is supported by the Electronic Media and Film Program at the New York State Council on the Arts. Thank you to ITP and 3LD Art & Technology Center 

Arduino code
Isadora patch

Logo for New York State Council for the Arts



Interactive Documentary | Performance (2007)

Created with Ethel Greenbaum, 89 years old.

Viewers enter a room where Ethel sits quietly at a dining table. Raising her hand, the table becomes a projection surface. Ethel moves her hand to trigger short video clips about her life. She then invites the audience to use their hands to reveal more of her story.

The memorabilia of Ethel’s life fades away. Ethel stands & for the first time directly addresses the audience:

We’re all human beings. We’re all one. You have to keep your spirits up. Without love a person cannot live. Its just beautiful to be here and see this crowd of people. Young ones and an old one like me and a middle-aged one and a baby that is the most precious thing of all. I see every color here, every nationality here, and that’s what this world needs. Love in many many ways. You can love a husband. Partners can love each other. You can love an animal but the basic thing of a life is to love and be loved by a human being and to love them in return

Ethel thanks the audience for attending and passes out chocolates and copies of a love letter she wrote to her late husband.

Please also see Belle, Al, Turing Machine

Created (program/camera/edit) by Ruth Sergel Performer Ethel Greenbaum Thank you Fay Greenbaum & Luke DuBois.
ITP Spring Show 2007

Turing Machine

Turing Machine

Interactive Documentary (2007) Created in collaboration with Gian Pablo Villamil. Turing Machine utilizes a re-purposed typewriter as a model Turing Machine to depict the life of Alan Turing, the father of modern computing. Reknowned for his role in breaking the infamous Enigma code during World War II, Turing was later persecuted for his homosexuality. For more information on Alan Turing please visit the Alan Turing Scrapbook and the Turing Archive for the History of Computing.  

Please also see Ethel, Al

Created by Ruth Sergel + Gian Pablo Villamil Exhibition ITP Spring Show (2007)



Interactive Documentary (2005) A portrait of homeless artist Alfred Carlo based on his stories and paintings. The audience moves physical objects which reveal and manipulate documentary video of Al’s multifaceted life as painter, vet, raconteur and man of the street.

Please also see Ethel, Turing Machine

Al was presented as a work-in-progress at the Troika Ranch Live-I Workshop at 3-Legged Dog in New York.

Techinical diagram of installation

Schematic by Peilin Kuo.





Fiction Film (2004)
35mm • 16 min. • color

Quietly shocking in its frankness
– Film Threat

is a subversive fable of old age and beauty.

The film is fiction but created with a community of 80 – 93 year old women whose participation as actors and advisors shaped the heart of the work.

Please also see Ethel, Cusp, Bruce

Belle trailer (see below for complete film)

Belle premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and broadcast on IFC.

Additional screenings include the IFP Film Market, Hamptons Film Festival, Women in the Directors Chair and the Woodstock Film Festival. Rhode Island Film Festival, Lake Placid Film Festival, Coney Island Film Festival, CinéWomen, Vermont Film Festival, Tiburon Film Festival, High Falls Film Festival, Reel Venus

Belle was made with the generous support of the Jerome Foundation and NYSCA.

Writer/Director Ruth Sergel Producers Pamela Griffiths Nicole Franklin Maya Montañez Smukler Associate Producers Jude Calder Mei Szetu Director of Photography David Griffiths Editor Lora Zaretsky Music Michael Montes Costume Designer Suzanne Kelly Production Designer Paul Weathered Props Tyler Kim Sound Editor Al Zaleski Title Design Steve Tozzi Mr. Fix-it Manfred Reiff Production Manager Carolyn Hepburn

Belle Ethel Greenbaum Ladies of the Boardwalk Marion Baker, Hope Bernstein, Goldie Gold, Blanche Schreiber, Ruth Shapiro, Susan Spielman, Ruth Vogel Pablo George Valencia Cashiers Jennifer Poe, Jennifer Vilette Gas Station Attendant Juan Molinari Dandy Nathan Farb Hussy Deborah Schwartz Store Customers Kate & Lola Buncher, Robert Castanos, Sylvia Cattan, Denise, Sarah & Sylvia Grazi, Shannon Mincieli, Christopher Trudeau Gas Station Customers Kristen Carey, Molly Lariccia, Manfred Reiff Boardwalk Marsha Gildin, Franklin Perkins, Marilyn Silverman Belle’s Neighbor Shirley Seligman Belle’s Son Michael Shulan Secretary Vera Zelen Pablo’s Wife Candice Coke

Special thanks to Fay Greenbaum.

Interviews with the 8 Belles, women from 80 to 92 years, who collaborated in the making of Belle.

Voices of 9.11


A People’s Archive (2002 – 2003)


Who gets to tell the story of September 11, 2001?

Voices of 9.11 is a collection of over 500 video testimonies recorded in 2002-2003 in New York City, Shanksville, PA, Washington D.C. and the Pentagon. At a time when language to describe the event was still being formed, the project was explicitly designed to give each individual agency over the story of their own lived experience. Inside a homemade video booth the participant started + stopped their own recording, they could speak for as long or short a time as they wished and in whatever language they felt most comfortable. Together we created this people’s archive of September 11, 2001.

In 2021, Voices of 9.11 was the basis of a feature documentary directed by Bjørn Johnson and David Belton. Memory Box; Echoes of 9/11 premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, aired on MSNBC and is currently screening on the Peacock network.

Voices of 9.11 was developed at here is new york: a democracy of photographs. In 2011 the entire collection was made available to the public online. Today the Voices of 9.11 collection is jointly held by the New-York Historical Society and the September 11 Digital Archive which has initiated a long term plan to donate its entire collection to the Library of Congress for permanent preservation.

View the Voices of 9.11 testimonies.

Please also see See You in the Streets, Chalk, Gaza Ghetto, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

Art is whatever lowers barriers and creates real communication across impassable barriers. To use it to create passions to fight for an issue is not art, it is the opposite of it, because it is not lowering or transcending barriers. Art is the only thing that can bridge or transcend or transform in real and lasting ways. And that is what it is. It makes connections with others very different from ourselves – – including our enemies and including hidden neglected unknown parts of ourselves that are wakened and drawn forth. – Maryat Lee, Radical Theater


There is a particular kind of hurt when the reality of our lived experience is denied. We grow twisted, bonsai limbs, trying to shape ourselves to a story that will never fit. Droplets of lead steadily fill each pore, a bit uncomfortable at first, until suddenly we find we can’t move our features at all.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11 there was a hush as we stood stark before the enormity of what had happened. Then a rush of sound; sirens, voices, broadcast newscasters and politicians. People trying to be authoritative even when they didn’t really know what had happened themselves.

Certain kinds of stories found amplification. They told of heroism, American can-do spirit. Those who complicated the narrative were quickly silenced. Voices, that spoke of sadness, confusion and searching questions, were held back until we could no longer hear them and forgot that they existed at all.

Grief requires an expanse. The field is filled with the shards of our exploded lives. It is an arduous process to shape the pieces of your story back into something that can be survived. Some people, good people, hard working people, people who are loved, do not make it.

I made Voices of 9.11 because I knew grief. I wanted to create a place where people could be held while doing the necessary work of crafting their story. Where each person’s contribution is a gift that adds to our collective project of humanity and understanding of the world.

I made Voices of 9.11 because I cherish our imperfect union. As a nation we plunged forward in out dated models of revenge and retaliation, missing an opportunity to learn from the expertise of others who have lived experience with terror both abroad and at home. The cost of that missed conversation is all around us.

I am deeply grateful to all the people who bravely shared their story in 2002-2003. I think of you, wonder about your lives and very much hope that you are well and thriving. Thank you for collaborating to make this people’s archive possible.

My heartfelt thanks to all the people who worked so hard behind the scenes to create and sustain Voices of 9.11.

Each of us is already weaving the threads for what happens next in our story. It is a good fight to dream boldly, refusing the co-optation of our imaginative worlds. Our stories hold a wild freedom. They can bust open possibility, reach around the globe, even touch other generations. They never exist in isolation but always reveal a joyous disorder of threads running out and through the stories of others. Shimmering, waving, we tilt into the light of our collective future.

Ruth Sergel
NYC 2021


Voices of 9.11 has been exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Théâtre de la Ville (Paris) and the New York Historical Society. The project was the basis for the feature length documentary Memory Box; Echoes of 9/11 directed by Bjørn Johnson + David Belton.

Recordings (2002 – 2003)
Created by Ruth Sergel
NYC Director: Pamela Griffiths
Washington DC/Pentagon: Laura Doggett, Vicki Warren, Lara McPherson
Pennsylvania: Andrea Star Reese
Booth Design: Tim Main
Technical Design & Support: Paul Constantine, David Griffiths, Juan Molinari, Steve Robison, Daniel Valdez.
Additional Support: Martha K. Babcock, Maggie Berkvist, Cynthia Dartley, Abigail Feldman, Kerin Ferallo, Karen Jaroneski, Mary Liao, Rosalind Lichter, Brenda English Manes, Jay Manis, Christine McAndrews, Stephanie Schenppe, Deborah Schwartz, Nelly Sidotti, Fernanda Malarazzo Suplicy, Nancy Tongue, Aaron Traub, Mary Traub, Amy Wentz, Mandy Yu.

Thank you to Michael Shulan, Mark Lubell, Charles Traub & all at here is new york: a democracy of photographs.

*** * *** * ***
Website (2011)
Ruth Sergel, Jude Calder, Laura Doggett, Pamela Griffiths, Nancy Tongue.
Translations: Lana Cheung, Sherry Kane, Peter von Salis
Additional Support: Magnus Pind Bjerre, Juan Molinari, Aaron Traub.

The 2011 project to bring all of Voices of 9.11 online is made possible by the generous support of our donors:
Anonymous, Martha Ann Babcock, John Barnes, Suzanne Pred Bass, Therese Baxter, Mary Berke, Maggie Berkvist, Lou Blumengarten, Christina Campanella, Roy Campolongo, Sybil Cohen, Theresa Curtin, Suzanne Epstein, Kerin Ferallo, Carol Fleming, Jörg Fockele, Nicole Franklin, Lyn Gale, Brian Garrick, Marsha Gildin, Steven Harkness, Carol J. Howard, Rose Imperaton, Gloria Jacobs, Allison Kestenbaum, Peilin Kuo, Marvin Kupfer, LuLu LoLo, Laura Lomer, Jay Manis, Lynne McQuaker, Carla Meyer, James Miller, Susan Patner, Lewis Rothenberg, Deborah Schwartz, Eva J von Schweinitz, Laura Shapiro, Andi Sosin, Mark Tabashnick, Judith Treesberg, Sheryl Woodruff, Ellen Yaroshefsky, Anna Yusim, Lori Zaumseil.

Special thanks!
Tricia Clark
Barbara Vyden
Vicki Warren

Thank you to Steve Brier and the September 11 Digital Archive and Marilyn Kushner and Jennifer Schantz of the New-York Historical Society for their support of this project.

How many testimonies are in the collection?
Approximately 550

How many hours of recordings?
Aproximately 120 hours

Where were the recordings made?
Voices of 9.11 was created at here is new york: a democracy of photographs in two locations: a temporary space on 6th Ave + 42nd Street and at 118 Prince Street. Additional recordings were made at the Staten Island Historical Society. A mobile team traveled to Shanksville, PA. The Voices of 9.11 video booth was at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC in Fall 2002 and inside the Pentagon in January and February 2003.

What is included in each post?
The date of the recording
The location of the recording
The V# of the recording

What’s a V#?
The V# indicates where the recording was made NYC (V0000-V0327), Staten Island (V0400-V0413), Shanksville, PA (V1001-V1010), Washington DC (V2000-V2092), Pentagon (V3000-3133).

What was the technical set up of the video booth?
Download V911 Tech Schematic

Where is my testimony?
You can search for your testimony on the Voices of 9.11 website by typing your name in the search box on the right.

Can I get a digital copy of my testimony?
Yes! We greatly appreciate all who participated in the project. Please contact me to request a copy of your testimony.

I would like to add a written update to my testimony
Please do! Simply email me the text you would like to have added.

Can I get a copy of someone else’s testimony?
No, we only provide digital copies to the people who participated in the project.

I would like to have my testimony removed from the website.
Please contact us and we will remove your testimony.

If you have other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.



Fiction Film (2000)
35mm • 25 Minutes • Color

Lays bare the growing pains of a
12 year old girl
-New York Times

There is an electric moment for girls as they leave behind the bold egoism of girlhood for the shaky dislocations of adolescence. Cusp is a fiction film created with a group of 11-12 year old girls hitting the wall of early adolescence.


Please also see Bruce, Belle.

Cusp premiered at New Directors/New Films (Museum of Modern Art, NYC) and broadcast on IFC.

Additional screenings include Clermont-Ferrand (European Premiere) Women Make Waves (Asian Premiere), the UN (for the Special Session on Children), Boston Museum of Fine Art, Anthology Film Archives, Independent Feature Project (Buzz Cuts), Black Maria Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, Women in the Directors Chair, Newport Film Festival, Bumbershoot/One Reel Festival, CinéWomen, AIR Gallery, Shorts International Film Festival, Harlem Film Festival, Lower East Side Girls’ Film Festival, Lake Placid Film Forum, Cork International Film Festival (Ireland), Dingle Film Festival (Ireland), Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Stony Brook Film Festival, Portland International Film Festival.

Writer/Director Ruth Sergel Producers Pamela Griffiths, Claudia Sidoti Director of Photography David Griffiths Editor Lora Zaretsky Music Michael Montes Costume Design Suzanne Kelly Production Design Paul Weathered Line Producer Susan Forrest Title Design Steve Tozzi

Alice Sophie Mascatello Mother Marlene Forte Eliza Hannah Goldwater Lila Gina Maria Paoli Becca Audrey Gelman PJ Dylan Weathered Sam Jerry Hildebrandt Lainey Ashley Brichter Candy Store Clerk George Valencia Candy Store Girl Giselle Forte Ring Vendor Alex Furth Happy Family Kate, Seth & Lola Buncher Screaming Couple Elizabeth Canavan, Jared Shaw Eliza’s Mother Claudia Sidoti Sam’s New Girlfriend Aimee Gallin Teacher Beverly Crick Kung Fu Boy Brian Dolphin, Nicholas Forrest-Reynolds School Kids Elizabeth Aguilar, Eliot Aronson, Chris DeLoach, John DeLoach, Anna Gribetz, Kate Gribetz, Antonella Lentini, Francesca Lentini, Zach McDonald, Arianne Moore, Matt Moore, Claudia Maria Perez, Lucia Reynolds, Aliza Stone, Nick Turner



Dance Film (1998)
35mm • 3 Minutes • B&W

A duet for camera + dancer that challenges expectations of grace and disability.

The film features dancer Bruce Jackson and the song “We Are….” by Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell. Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock on Sacred Ground.

Please also see Cusp, Belle.

Bruce premiered at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS.

Selected screenings include: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Anthology Film Archives, The Place (London), Passages (Milan), Exploratorium (San Francisco),IDAT 00 (International Dance and Technology), Dance on Camera, El Infinito (Mexico), American Dance Festival, Toronto Worldwide Shorts, General Roca Festival (Argentina), Do Boy’s Dozens, Sisyphus Emerging (Limelight Nightclub), Aurora Picture Show, Cinéwomen, Projections (Toronto), Stony Brook Film Festival, Brooklyn Disability Film Festival, Alice’s 3 MInutes Film Festival, Dis This…Film Festival, CMJ Music Fest, Care Of (Italy).

Director/Cinematographer Ruth Sergel Editor Juliette Olavarria Production Design Paul Weathered  Assistant Director: Kate Sergel Buncher Camera Assistant Tricia Clark  2nd Camera Assistant Peter Gabriel  Gaffer Eric Neason  Best Boy Alexi Williams  Stills Pamela Griffiths  Props Dominic Toto  Sound Tim Mangin  Catering Claudia Sidoti

Dancer Bruce Jackson

Photo of Ruth Sergel + Bruce jackson by Pamela Griffiths

Photo by Pamela Griffiths

Lyrics for We Are… from Lessons by Y.M. Barnwell ©1993

For each child that’s born
a morning star rises
and sings to the universe
who we are.

We are our grandmothers’ prayers.
We are our grandfathers’ dreamings.
We are the breath of our ancestors.
We are the spirit of God.

We are
Mothers of courage
Fathers of time
Daughters of dust
Sons of great vision.
We are
Sisters of mercy
Brothers of love
Lovers of life and
the builders of nations.
We are
Seekers of truth
Keepers of faith
Makers of peace and
the wisdom of ages.

We are our grandmothers’ prayers.
We are our grandfathers’ dreamings.
We are the breath of our ancestors.
We are the spirit of God.

For each child that’s born
a morning star rises
and sings to the universe
who we are.